I'm about to start part 3 of Crime and Punishment and I can't help but worry that the P&V translation has scratched some of the beauty of Dostoevsky with some of their awkward phrasing after reading Oliver Ready's handle on some of the more gripping passages. It just seems like the superior translation, localised with just the right amount of colloquialism and nice shading of imagery as shown below.
>In Part I, Chapter 5, Raskolnikov dreams of a scene from childhood — a cart-driver has overloaded his cart with passengers and is beating his nag, urging her to move when she clearly can’t manage:
“Daddy! Daddy!” he shouts to his father. “What are they doing, Daddy? Daddy, they’re beating the poor little horse!”
“Come on, boy!” says the father. “Just drunken idiots fooling around: off we go, boy, don’t look!” — and tries to lead him away, but he breaks free of his grasp and, quite beside himself, runs to the horse. But the poor little horse is in a bad way. She’s struggling for breath, stops, gives another tug and almost falls.
“Flog ‘er till she drops!” shouts Mikolka. “She’s asking for it. I’ll flog ‘er dead!”
“Where’s your fear of God, you mad beast?” yells an old man in the crowd.
Should I stick with P&V for consistency in the final stretch or abandon ship and go with Ready's translation?
>A great deal goes right in Ready’s treatment of this nightmare, which continues for another two pages. The father’s pained and abashed dismissal, “Just drunken idiots fooling around,” which he delivers in choked-off fragments in Russian (“пьяныe, шaлят, дypaки”), sounds far fresher and produces a far more poignant effect than previous efforts: “They are drunken and foolish, they are in fun” (Constance Garnett, 1914); “They’re drunk, playing mischief, the fools” (David McDuff, 1991); “They’re drunk, they’re playing pranks, the fools” (Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, 1992). “They are in fun,” is, of course hopelessly dated, while “playing mischief” and “pranks,” though close translations of the verb “шaлить,” are not really appropriate to the situation or to the father’s register or mental state.
This I'm okay with. But PV's treatment on the last bit is pretty appalling:
'Have you no fear of god, or what, you hairy devil!'.
Back on Ready's use of mad beast:
>The “mad beast,” too, is an inspired choice. The Russian original has the old man calling Mikolka a “лeший (leshii),” that is, a “wood demon” — a creature from the Russian pagan past, which worked its way into the syncretic faith of the village but, by the 19th century, was, for the most part, an element of idiomatic speech. For instance, to send someone to the wood demon is to send them to hell. Under certain circumstances, where the wood demon’s attributes are central to the exposition of a scene, a translator might want to preserve his presence — but here, where he is very much part of an idiom, suggesting wildness and inhumanity, Ready’s rendition works perfectly, allowing us to speed through the passage nervously, just as we ought to.
Yeah I'm just worried that it would feel like reading an absolutely different voice, so much that it'd piss me off to the point of starting back on page 1 to capture the original charm. Which is shithouse.
That translation by Ready is harrowing and immersive. I just checked the P&V, and their version has an opposite effect on me. For example they have the father saying the men beating the horse are 'playing pranks', which seems to me like a terrible choice of words. The Russian behind this is шaлят, somewhat similar to engaging in 'mischief' in English. So the father isn't quite condemning the men for being 'evil' or what have you, but still, to refer to their action as 'pranks' that they're 'playing' is just way off.